(++ Warning: There are spoilers for Episode 8 of Tales from the Loop in this review++)
We start where we began, with another story focussing on the central family we met in the very first episode and one with a similar theme to the first episode, giving further meaning to the Loop of the series’ title. An episode that firmly established that the whole concept of time is fluid in this world, literally and figuratively, as we’ll discover later on. With all other family members having been the focus of previous episodes, it seems only right for the youngest sibling, Cole (Duncan Joiner), to have his own run-in with the Loop. But, given that most people haven’t been too blessed after such run-ins with the universal energies these mere mortals are hopelessly trying to harness, can it ever end happily? Well, yes and no. But, for me, mainly no.
Time – there’s that word again – has moved on and Cole’s ‘brother’ has moved out. Well, as he admits himself, that wasn’t his home in the first place. Not after stealing the body of Jacob. The latter now having past away, reminding us while there is a lot of love in this show, there is also a lot of loss. And, it feels, no time to grieve. The juts never seem to be the… well, time.
Anyway, Cole is told by Danny – in Jakob’s body – the truth and this causes him to go find his brother in the woods. Ah yes, those woods again. A place of magic and mystery in any fairy tale, as it is here too. It’s where the Loop seem to bleed out, and where the true Jacob resides in a AT-ST ‘Chicken Walker’ like mechanical body. A reunion that bring a brief moment of happiness as the two siblings find their own way to bond and to pick up where they left off. All well and good, right? Especially as Cole thinks his mom can resolve this problem. After all, she is a top scientist at the Loop, isn’t she? But, the Loop is not done with this family yet, as Cole and his bionic brother cross a stream that remains frozen even at the height of summer. Bizarre? Yes, but by this stage in the game, the viewer doesn’t give it much of a second thought. Even though the opening shot of this concluding episode is a close up of this self same frozen stream. Almost screaming for attention.
One of the highlights of this finale is the showdown between Cole and a very scorpion looking mecha deep in the heart of the woods. It’s like two dinosaurs tussling for dominance and a great moment of peril in an otherwise peril-free show. It’s also the last high point for Cole. While Mecha-Jakob wins the fight, he losses the war and soon after this dies.
This is just the beginning of Cole’s tragedies, as he loses his brother, and so much more. Seems, in crossing the steam one more time – and while it is flowing again, albeit momentarily – he crosses over in time too. See what I meant by the stream of time being both literal and figurative? Unlike the other ways in which time is played with across this debut season, this feels a little bit too on the nose for my liking, although the emotional impact as Cole returns to Mercer to find is mother aged and his father long dead, is guaranteed to bring a lump to your throat. Especially as we watch a silent montage of moments from a family life Cole never witnessed and a mother – herself no stranger to time-travel, remember – who has seen the loss of both sons (something no parent should ever have to live through) and now her husband. The beautifully but sad score that accompanies these scenes only accentuate the haunting, tragic tone of these poignant events. And the feeling of powerlessness in a much larger, incomprehensible and uncaring universe. Loretta (Rebecca Hall) has paid a huge personal price for working at the Loop. And yet, she continues to do so, even though she is all too aware of the consequences. Consequences that do not outweigh any advances the Loop may have bought to this world.
What next for this series is anybodies guess. Arguably, any future series doesn’t even have to be set in this same small town setting. The books that follow on from the original Kickstarter collection – on which this season is based upon – promise a far grimmer future, and one in which time has broken down to the extent that dinosaurs once again roam the Earth. Although, with one last twist – and something that has been in front of our very eyes throughout this show – maybe we aren’t quite done with Mercer yet, even if the very final scene – another time-jump – would suggest otherwise?
But, I suppose time, as they say, will tell.
Tales From The Loop is streaming now on Amazon Prime.